Last night the organisers of the Bahrain Grand Prix issued a statement accepting that it will not be possible to stage the race this year and focussing their efforts on getting ready to host the sport in March 2012.
With so much going on there, and with uncertainty in the outside world about the extent of the troubles, it was always going to be problematic to try to hold the race this year. It was surprising that the Bahrainis got as far as a positive vote in the FIA World Motor Sport Council last week.
But having achieved that, the teams put their foot down and made it clear to them, the commercial rights holder and the FIA that they would not accept the disruption and extension of the schedule into December to accommodate the change.
Now Bahrain has nine months – twice the length of time that has elapsed since the initial uprising in the country – to pursue discussions with the opposition groups and find a way forward which will create a stable enough society for “normal” activities, such as F1, to return.
The Chairman of Bahrain International Circuit, Zayed Alzayani, said,
“Whilst Bahrain would have been delighted to see the Grand Prix progress on October 30th in-line with the World Motor Sport Council’s decision, it has been made clear that this fixture cannot progress and we fully respect that decision.
“Bahrain has absolutely no desire to see a race which would further extends the calendar season detract from the enjoyment of F1 for either drivers, teams or supporters. We want our role in Formula One to continue to be as positive and constructive as it has always been, therefore, in the best interest of the sport, we will not pursue the rescheduling of a race this season.
“We look forward to welcoming teams, their drivers and supporters back to Bahrain next year.”
Speaking at the FOTA Fans Forum in Montreal last night, McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh -whose team is 40% owned by the Bahrainis – said,
“We’ve been going to Bahrain for many years and they’ve done a great job, ” he said. “But we have to recognise that we are a sport, not a political organisation. FOTA made its position clear in a private letter. But what we have to be careful of is, is it for us to decide on human rights, whether we should be going to China or Russia?
We have to be very careful if we then start be this moral arbiter, of what country has the right level of human rights and we’ll only go there. It was difficult for Jean Todt and the FIA, he went into a process, there was a unanimous decision, Jean is trying to run the sport in an orderly manner.”